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Marshalltown food pantries need donations

T-R photos by Anna Shearer Cindy Staron writes down clients’ food preferences at the Emergency Food Box on Monday while they wait behind a blue line as a health precaution.

Food pantries are seeing a decrease in donations and Marshalltown’s most vulnerable are still in need.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people who need food assistance, during a time when food pantries have seen fewer volunteers and their shelves begin to empty.  

“We’ve seen a decrease in donations,” said Pam Kasten, captain at Marshalltown’s Salvation Army.

As of Monday the Salvation Army in Marshalltown will be serving people at its door and not inside the facility.

“Clients will need to call and let us know they’re coming,” Kasten said. “Because we now have active cases in Marshall County and we’ve closed the doors to protect our team.”

• Salvation Army — 107 W. State St. 641-753-5236; Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday • House of Compassion — 211 W. Church St., 641-752-5999; Open 10 a.m. to Noon and 1 p.m. 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday • Emergency Food Box — 109 S. 3rd St., 641-753-0486; Open 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

The Salvation Army will continue to serve Marshalltown residents, while adapting to the situation created by the global pandemic.

“It just looks a little different,” Kasten said. “That protects everybody involved.”

Kasten predicts the need for food will go up now because of the Marshalltown cases.

“We’ve seen a little bit of increase in families coming to us and I anticipate that we’ll see more now that we have cases in Marshall County,” she said. “With the increase in families we’ll definitely be in need.”

The Salvation Army is in need of meat, canned goods, pasta and pasta sauce.

They are still accepting donations. The Salvation Army just asks people to call first so volunteers can get the donation at the door.

“We’re just trying to do our best to keep the distancing and practice social distancing but still help the community,” Kasten said.

‘I lost my job’

The Emergency Food Box has also had to make adjustments as well.

Volunteers have been busy, but still applying social distance.

“Our stock is running low,” said Cindy Staron, operations co-chair for the Emergency Food Box. “Just because of use, but also because the grocery stores have not been able to fill our order to the quantity that we usually would have gotten.

Emergency Food Box supplies families once a month with a box of food and a voucher for more items.

On Monday the Emergency Food Box saw a large number of people coming in for help.

“The first week, everyday we had somebody come in saying ‘I lost my job yesterday’ or ‘I lost my job this morning,'” Staron said. “We’ve had to adjust our hours because we’re a 100 percent volunteer staff.”

The House Of Compassion has recently seen more people coming to them for food as well.

“Our meals which are served Monday through Friday still goes on a take-out basis,” said March Runner, House of Compassion director. “We are seeing more people in need.”

While the House of Compassion still has food, they’ve had to close their closet of supplies that families can’t get through food stamps such as cleaning materials or paper towels.

“We’ve had to close our supply closet because our volunteers can’t make it in,” Runner said. “Most of our volunteers are 75 plus years of age.”

If the pandemic continues it may become more difficult for the House of Compassion to offer food and meals.

A lot of the food the House of Compassion offers comes from churches and leftovers generated from events in town. Unfortunately, the lack of events has led to fewer items being donated.

“There’s no weddings, no events going on,” Runner said. “Right now we’re OK, but I do see if it continues on we may run into problems.”

‘In times of crisis’

The House of Compassion is in need of volunteers right now to come prepared and ready to serve meals to people.

“We are pre-packaging meals because we have the containers to put them in. We’re handing them out at the door,” Runner said. “We’d be thankful to have somebody come in.”

Their office is closed, but their phones are still on and people can sign up to volunteer for upcoming meals.

“I’m looking for cooks and servers for April 5 and April 8,” Runner said. “I think we’re OK for this week.”

The food banks in Marshalltown are encouraging monetary donations more than anything, but food donations are welcome as well.

The Emergency Food Box is running low on a large variety of foods including rice, cereal and peanut butter.

“Right now any food donation will be helpful,” Kasten said. “Anything that you would want in your pantry we want to be able to give our clients and families in need.”

The Salvation Army and food pantry organizations are an essential service, according to Gov. Kim Reynold’s office.

“The need goes up in the middle of a crisis like this,” Kasten said. “The ones that are most vulnerable in times of calm are even more vulnerable in times of crisis.”

Marshalltown food pantries

• Salvation Army — 107 W. State St. 641-753-5236; Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday

• House of Compassion — 211 W. Church St., 641-752-5999; Open 10 a.m. to Noon and 1 p.m. 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday

• Emergency Food Box — 109 S. 3rd St., 641-753-0486; Open 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

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Contact Thomas Nelson at tnelson@timesrepublican.com

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